I do not hold with banditing races and I never have. A bandit in a race is any person that runs the course and makes use of the race support but has not paid for the right to be there. Jon over at the complete running network wrote about how he no longer holds with banditing a race:
When they were these mysterious, unseen runners, it never made a difference. But now, seeing their faces, and them running between the real racers, it made me mad. [...] They didn’t pay their money like I did, and now they are spoiling my race. [...] It’s theft, plain and simple.
Actually, to my mind, banditing a race is not plain and simple.
Not only is it theft, but it is not safe, either. Races have entrance caps because that is the most number of people that a race can support. Volunteers and race directors only scrape together enough supplies for the number of people that they expect to have to support. Non-profits often sponsor races in an effort to raise capital for their charitable work, which is not helped by people who skip paying the fee. Bandits have not signed any sort of liability waiver, and as ridiculous as it sounds the race directors would probably be found liable if the bandit did something stupid like run into a car or trip over a curb.
When I was in college, one of my professors insisted that we all get a subscription to the Christian Science Monitor. After the Boston marathon, they had a huge spread in the paper about the race (it is published in Boston) which consisted of a few sentences mentioning the winners and the rest of the entire page glorifying bandits in the race. I immediately canceled my subscription and sent the editors a nasty letter, which I assume that they didn’t print. I’ve never once looked in that newspaper again, so I’m not sure.
This past weekend was the Maine Marathon. I had a friend that was hoping that I would come down and help pace him through his half marathon, and while cooling down after my 5k from the day before another friend had suggested that I kill two birds with one stone by getting my long run in during the marathon. I would not be near the start or finish, so chances are pretty good that I would not actually bother anybody while I was running. I could carry my own water, so I could skip on the water stations and not make use of support that I didn’t pay for. I could not do it though. It was too much like banditing the race. Instead, I just ran around my house.
If somebody is out for a run and a race that they were unaware of happens by while they are out, then I am not going to be overly worried. Nor will I worry about deer that try banditing the race other than to make sure that I am not bowled over by it.
I know that some races cost too much money. I know that some people feel that they deserve to run in a race despite not meeting a qualifying standard. But I also know that if I can not afford or a race then I’ll skip it or find a cheaper one. I know that if I have not qualified for a race then I will just wait until I have. There are plenty of cheap alternatives to almost any race that you can think of, especially if you are willing to travel a little.
Never bandit a race. It is not fair to the race organizers. It is not fair to the volunteers. It is not fair to the sponsors. It is not fair to the other athletes. It may not be fair to the roads/trails/town infrastructure that the race takes place in. It is just something that you should always avoid, and never feel bad about calling somebody out on it.